Social cleansing over the past three years has seen more than 50,000 families silently moved out of London boroughs due to welfare benefit cuts and rising rents. Families who are left unable to afford to live in the capital are being uprooted and moved away from their relatives and in some cases, support networks
London councils are currently moving homeless mothers and children out of their boroughs at a rate of nearly 500 families a week.
The Independent reports:
The spike coincides with the Coalition’s introduction of the benefit cap and “bedroom tax”, both of which have made it significantly harder for poor people to afford housing in London. In 2010, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, vowed that the controversial welfare reforms would not lead to “Kosovo-style social cleansing”, pledging: “You are not going to see thousands of families evicted from the place where they have been living.”
But official figures – which the authorities have previously refused to publish – show the problem is much worse than campaigners feared. They show that councils are currently moving homeless mothers and children out of their boroughs at a rate of close to 500 families a week, with numbers continuing to rise.
The Independent has uncovered cases of depression, attempted suicide and the miscarriage of a child involving those forced to move many miles away by their councils.
Some 2,707 families have been moved out of Greater London over the last two years, the figures show, to locations including Manchester, Bradford, Hastings, Pembrokeshire, Dover and Plymouth.
In many cases, councils are not telling each other when they move families, leaving vulnerable adults and children without the support they need. At least 25 councils have received homeless families without being properly notified by the councils that sent the families. The shipping out of homeless families has, until now, been happening behind closed doors. The representative body for London’s 32 boroughs, London Councils, which collects data on out-of-borough placements, has never made the figures public.
But documents obtained by The Independent reveal the flow of families from inner to outer London – and out of the capital completely.
One leaked document, circulated in March, shows that in just three months last year, a record-breaking 5,437 families were moved out of borough – the highest number on record. Councils dumped 49,789 families out of borough between July 2011 and July 2014. Moves in the last eight months are likely to have pushed the total well over 50,000. As the figures refer to families, the number of children moved is likely to be in the hundreds of thousands.
The data maps out the movement of tens of thousands of homeless families from inner London to outer London, with east London receiving the most families. Faced with an influx of so many families from other parts of London, east London boroughs have been moving their homeless to Essex, Kent and beyond.
Between July and September last year there were 423 families sent out of Greater London, including 115 families sent to Essex, 96 families sent to Kent and 24 to Birmingham.
Councils are consistently not fulfilling their legal duty to properly notify councils when they send homeless families, the investigation found. Redbridge council received 336 families from other parts of London between July and September last year, yet said it had only received eight notifications between January and October 2014.
Luton council said it received four notifications in the same period, yet the data shows that 40 families were sent there from London in the six months between April and September 2014.
London has been hit hardest by the welfare cuts imposed by the Coalition Government, and the capital has also seen the biggest increase in rents across the country. The benefit cap limits the maximum benefit available to households at £500 per week. And the bedroom tax, which cuts payments to council tenants with spare rooms, has hit nearly 50,000 households in London.
Many of those hit by the cuts have accrued rent arrears and then been evicted, leaving them homeless. These families have then been sent many miles away by their councils.